revokedChief Justice John Marshal wrote, in the Supreme Court ruling in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), “That the power to tax involves the power to destroy; that the power to destroy may defeat and render useless the power to create . . . are propositions not to be denied.” Yet for the last 196 years, people have repeatedly tried to deny those propositions.

The latest example involves the Supreme Court’s pending ruling on the same-sex marriage issue will affect the non-profit status of religious institutions, such as colleges and universities. Many people seem to deny that taxing such institutions would have any nefarious effects, much less “destroy” them. Many other—more knowledgeable—understand the destructive implications for religious organizations and consider it a fringe benefit. 

Leslie Loftis explains why religious organizations have preemptively been exempt from taxation—and why religious freedom requires they remain exempt:
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
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Why Americans oppose economic redistribution despite income inequality
Michael Barone, AEI Ideas

Americans have an innate sense that it’s a mistake to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. They seem to understand that, if taxes are too high, the affluent will figure out ways to shelter income.

The Faustian Bargain Between Church and State
David Shipler, The Atlantic

To receive tax-exempt status from the IRS, religious organizations must abstain from electioneering. Is that constitutional?

The Surprising News about Poverty
Elise Amyx, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

We won’t ever have all the pieces to the poverty puzzle in place on this side of eternity, but every now and then, a few seem to fall into place.

Forgive Us Our Debts: Family Christian Turns to the Law for Grace
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today

The Bible debate inside the bankrupt bookstore chain’s searches for a new buyer.

7figuresThe Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an a new survey by the Pew Research Center that compares the religious landscape of 2015 to 2007. Here are seven figures you should know from the report.

1. Between 2007 and 2014, the share of the U.S. population that identifies as Christian fell from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent, driven primarily by declines among mainline Protestant and Catholics.

2. The rise in intermarriage appears to be linked with the growth of the religiously unaffiliated population. Nearly one-in-five people surveyed who got married since 2010 are either religiously unaffiliated respondents who married a Christian spouse or Christians who married an unaffiliated spouse. By contrast, just 5 percent of people who got married before 1960 fit this profile.

3. Catholics appear to be declining both as a percentage of the population and in absolute numbers. The new survey indicates there are about 51 million Catholic adults in the U.S. today, roughly 3 million fewer than in 2007. But taking margins of error into account, the decline in the number of Catholic adults could be as modest as 1 million.
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cambodiaThere are few things more horrifying than the sexual exploitation of a child. Perhaps it is made even worse to think that those who are meant to protect the child (parents, police, court officials) are complicit in the harm of that child. No place on Earth was worse than Cambodia.

But that has changed. According to International Justice Mission (IJM), Cambodian officials have said, “No more,” and they meant it.

In the early 2000s, the Cambodian government estimated that 30 percent of those in the country’s sex industry were children. But news coverage of Western men negotiating the purchase of first- and second-grade girls in Svay Pak embarrassed Cambodia and revolted its principal international donor, the United States. When then-U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray warned the interior minister that Cambodia would lose U.S. aid if it didn’t clean up its act, the government responded with alacrity. It sacked corrupt officers from the anti-trafficking police unit and installed new leadership. A strong anti-trafficking law was adopted, and hundreds of pimps, brothel owners and foreign pedophiles were arrested, charged, convicted and jailed.

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the_visigothsWhile it could be argued that youth is wasted on the young, it is indisputable that commencement addresses are wasted on young graduates. Sitting in a stuffy auditorium waiting to receive a parchment that marks the beginning of one’s student loan repayments is not the most conducive atmosphere for soaking up wisdom. Insight, which can otherwise seep through the thickest of skulls, cannot pierce mortarboard.

Most colleges and universities recognize this fact and schedule the graduation speeches accordingly. Schools regularly choose speakers who are unlikely to motivate, inspire, or provide advice that will be remembered after the post-graduation hangover. That is why graduates are subjected to such deep thinkers as actor Alan Alda (Carnegie Mellon University), comedian Stephen Colbert (Wake Forest), and rapper Kanye West (Art Institute of Chicago).

Although he had been forced to sit through dozen of such speeches, the late communications theorist Neil Postman was never invited to provide a commencement address. He did prepare some remarks, though, that he planned to use if ever given the opportunity. In typical Postman fashion he even provides it as a true open source document: “If you think my graduation speech is good, I hereby grant you permission to use it, without further approval from or credit to me, should you be in an appropriate situation.”

Postman’s graduation speech is good. Too good, in fact, to be wasted on the young:
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Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
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Madeleine lengle.jpg

This week the University Bookman published an essay in which I reflect on some of the lessons we can learn from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, especially related to the recent discovery of an excised section. L’Engle, I argue, is part of a longer tradition of classical conservative thought running, in the modern era, from Burke to Kirk.

Although L’Engle’s narrative vision is drenched in Christianity, she is often thought of holding to a rather liberal, rather than traditional or conservative, form of the faith. However, in an intriguing essay published as part of an edited collection by Regnery in 1986, L’Engle describes what the proper role of the church, particularly of her Episcopal church, ought to be with respect to social realities.

I discovered this piece while doing some research for my own small book on the economic teachings of the ecumenical movement. In “What May I Expect from My Church?” the question she raises with respect to the “Anglican establishment” was precisely the one that interested me with respect to the ecumenical movement: “Where and how do I want my establishment to inject itself into secular controversies?”
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discourseYou’ve heard of that mythical place where elephants go to die? Apparently, these giants “know” they are going to die, and they head off to a place known only to them.

Free speech in the United States goes off to die as well, but there is no myth surrounding this. Free speech dies in our colleges and universities. Just ask American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Sommers. Sommers is a former philosophy professor and AEI scholar who recently spoke at Oberlin College. Her speech was excellent, but it apparently frightened the pants off a bunch of students (oh, I probably can’t say that. It likely makes someone feel violated.) They paraded outside the room where Sommers spoke, holding signs invoking “trigger warnings” and announcing a “safe room” where those who found Sommers’ talk too much to handle. Her topic? “What’s Right (And Wrong) With Feminism.” She was harassed and harangued both in-person and online for daring to speak such words. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
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Cuba’s President Castro: ‘If Pope Keeps Going Way He’s Going, I’ll Come Back to Catholic Church’
Deborah Castellano Lubov, Zenit

Following meeting with Pope Francis, Raul Castro shares he’ll attend papal Masses in Cuba.

Why raising minimum wages is riskier than expanding the EITC
Aparna Mathur, AEI Ideas

The reason minimum wages may not boost incomes at the bottom is because there is a significant probability that higher minimum wages could result in fewer jobs. Increases in the minimum wage mean an increase in costs for employers.

5 takeaways from the US religious freedom panel’s report
Brian Pellot, Religion News Service

The independent watchdog panel created by Congress to monitor religious freedom conditions worldwide issued its 16th annual report last week. Here’s a roundup of the report’s key recommendations.

Russia Threatens Veto of EU Anti-Trafficking Efforts
The American Interest

In recent years, Russia has become hellbent on using every opportunity to put obstacles in the way of EU—and U.S.—policy. That’s not necessarily because Moscow has any substantial objection to or even interest in any particular question, but simply because it wants to be as much of a factor in geopolitics as it can.

walmart-lowwagesAs Elise pointed out earlier today, economist Donald Boudreaux completely eviscerates former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s call to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. As Boudreaux says, “Reich’s video is infected, from start to finish, with too many other errors to count.”

But Boudreaux also wrote a letter to Reich countering the economically ignorant (though increasingly popular!) claim that “we subsidize low wage employers” like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, and almost every mom-and-pop business in America through government welfare programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance. As Boudreaux says to Reich:
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fight forRobert Reich seems to be a smart man. He served under three presidents, and now is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. His video (below) says raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, he gets it all wrong.

Donald Boudreaux of the Cato Institute notes a couple of errors in Reich’s thinking. First,

Ignoring supply-and-demand analysis (which depicts the correct common-sense understanding that the higher the minimum wage, the lower is the quantity of unskilled workers that firms can profitably employ), Reich asserts that a higher minimum wage enables workers to spend more money on consumer goods which, in turn, prompts employers to hire more workers.  Reich apparently believes that his ability to describe and draw such a “virtuous circle” of increased spending and hiring is reason enough to dismiss the concerns of “scare-mongers” (his term) who worry that raising the price of unskilled labor makes such labor less attractive to employers.

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